Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

February 16, 2007

Web 2.0: What is it?

Filed under: Web 2.0 — Donna DesRoches @ 6:00 pm

You will notice that many of my posts deal with technologies that are part of what is referred to as Web 2.0 also called the Read/Write Web. These new communication tools (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, etc) not only enable content to be quickly and easily placed on the web but also facilitate online collaboration and sharing.

Recently I have come across three videos that may help understand Web 2.0. The first is a video by Jeff Utecht. In his post on A Lesson in Connections he explains that he posted this video as his attempt to get his head around Web 2.0.

The second video, Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us, examines in a fast-paced, unique way the changes that Web 2.0 is creating in the relationship between ourselves and the machine.

The third video, Telling the New Story, is an interview with Kathy Cassidy an grade one/two teacher from Moose Jaw who has received world-wide recognition for her use of web 2.0 tools with her students. Those of you in the Battlefords area will recognize the familiar Red Hat log-in screen on her computers.

Times have changed! The web no longer flows in one direction. Individuals are no longer simply consumers of information they are also contributors. The new tools allow content to be easily added to the web – no longer does one have to use high learning curve tools to be contributors. Grade one students can do it! And, we must keep in mind the issues: privacy, ethics, responsibility, and safety as we move with our students into a new age of web-based learning.


February 9, 2007

FireWorks at Major

Filed under: digital photography,FireWorks — Donna DesRoches @ 9:16 pm

Last Friday I had the pleasure of working with students in Mavis Hoffman’s Information Processing classes in Major. The students wanted to learn how to use Fireworks to modify pictures for major projects that they were going to be working on throughout the school year. I enjoyed the day very much and was extremely pleased with the pictures the students created. They quickly learned how to meld two or more photos together by using several FireWorks tools.

It is very interesting to note that the days of step-by-step instructions to teach students how to use technology are over. Show them what a program can do; give a brief overview of the tools; explain what file formats in which images or documents need to be saved and let them go. As I demonstrated the program I could see them making connections with other programs they have used and later on 2 – 3 said to me, “this reminds me of…” and they would name a program they had used.

We no longer need to teach them how to use the technology and therefore can spend more time talking and demonstrating the aesthetics. For example, we spent time talking to these students about size and resolution and how important it was to select images that matched or that could be resized. We also talked about the shape and positioning of images – especially when it came to erasing and inserting another head on a body.

It quickly became apparent that the aesthetics of the image was important to these students and they exhibited a great deal of patience painstakingly making sure that backgrounds melded and images fit together seamlessly. I also really enjoyed watching the students worked together. If one student had problems another would say, “here, I’ll show you how” or “you just do this” and would demonstrate and work him/her through the steps.

Below are some pictures created by the students….


In this picture the student completely removed another individual and filled in the background to match the rest of the wall.



February 8, 2007

Blogging and RSS Feeds

Filed under: Blogs,RSS — Donna DesRoches @ 10:02 pm

Blogging is one of the oldest of the ’emerging technologies’ that have made the internet truly interactive and collaborative. It is a very simple way to put content on the web and allow others to comment on a topic of interest thus facilitating local, national, and global conversations.

I was eager to share many classroom activities and ways that blogging can be incorporated into the classroom until I listened to a enlightening podcast (notes) by Will Richardson, one of most well known and respected educational bloggers. He shares that blogging has been transformative for him because a professional development community was created with the educational bloggers he was reading and those that read his posts.

Will believes that for the blogging experience to be truly transformative for students they must extend “some ‘intellectual sweat’ — reading, writing, commenting, and thinking”. This wiki page from Alec Couros on Emerging Technologies summarizes Will’s levels of blogging from non-blogging to complex blogging.

Blogging as Professional Development

When asked for ideas to help classroom teachers integrate blogging into their classroom Will focussed instead on the importance of teachers using blogging for their own professional development, which starts by reading blogs on topics of interest and then commenting on other’s posts and eventually writing one’s own blog. He says that in order to understand how blogging can be transformative we must begin to experience it ourselves by following topics for which we have a passion.

In this post I take Will’s advice and instead of offering many suggestions for classroom blogging I strongly urge you to invest some time in following blogs that appeal to your hobbies and interests. That means that instead of talking about blogging in this post I will talk about RSS readers which will allow you to easily have information from blogs and other internet-based resources come to you rather than you having to go to each site to see if new information has been added.

What is an RSS Reader?

148368163_2c0a7c1942_t.jpg xml1.png These icons indicate a feed, news updates from a website in form that is simple for a computer program to deal with. You read these files in a program called an aggregator or a reader, which collects news from various websites and provides it to you in a simple form.

For example, I use Bloglines as my reader/aggregator: This is what it looks like: Bloglines

All the blogs that I subscribe to are along the side. Every time a new post is made it is indicated in bold. I can then click on the title of the blog and read the new post in the window on the right. I can also click on the title of the blog in the window on the right and go directly to the blog itself. When I registered in Bloglines I was given the option to add a subscribe button to my Bookmark tool bar. I often find new blogs that I want to read and when I do I simply click on the subscribe button and it is added to my bloglines account. Beware… this can easily lead to information addiction and even information overload!

Blogging subscribe

One of the things that I like about Bloglines is that I can share my feeds with others.

Since I started using Bloglines a new service has come into being… Google Reader. Rob Wall has provided some screenshots on his blog that give an overview of Google Homepage and Google Reader- well worth a look!

You can see some more uses of RSS feeds by going to Alec Couros’ wiki page, Putting it all Together (RSS): What is RSS?

How to find Blogs

You can find blogs by going to the blog search page at Bloglines, the Google Blog Search and by searching Technorati which is an Internet search engine for searching blogs. As of December 2006, Technorati indexes over 55 million weblogs.

Reading blogs has been one of the most powerful professional development activities in which I have engaged in the past 26 years of teaching. Although my participation in the conversation has had a slow start I feel that I have encountered a community of colleagues that would never have been possible without access to blogging software.

Blog at